From a famous speech that has echoed for decades to a crazy slugfest at Coors Field, baseball has had its share of memorable moments on July Fourth. Here’s a look back at some of the all-time moments of the day.
1. GEHRIG‘S FAREWELL: Delivering one of the most hallowed speeches in sports history, Lou Gehrig spoke between games of a New York Yankees doubleheader with the Washington Senators on July 4, 1939. It came two weeks after he retired, having been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Gehrig played only eight games that season, driving in one run and hitting .143.
The “Luckiest Man” speech has been played countless times.
2. RAGS’ NO-NO: Forty-four years after Gehrig retired, Dave Righetti provided a July Fourth highlight for the Yankees, pitching a no-hitter against rival Boston. It was the first no-hitter by New York since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series and the first by a Yankees left-hander since 1917. Righetti got the final out by striking out Wade Boggs, much to the delight of owner George Steinbrenner, who was celebrating his 53rd birthday that day in 1983.
“I did it on the right day, I guess. I guess they replay it every year in New York,” said Righetti, now the pitching coach for the San Francisco Giants. “I haven’t watched it in years. My family watches it. It’s funny. If I go outside and walk anywhere and am recognized, it comes up 95 percent of the time.”
3. FIREWORKS AT 4 A.M.: One of the greatest games played on July Fourth didn’t end until almost 4 a.m. the next morning because the New York Mets needed 19 innings to beat the Atlanta Braves 16-13 on a rainy night in 1985. Dwight Gooden started and Ron Darling finally closed it out for the Mets.
“So many guys had been used and there was only a few of us left on the field coming in, and my memory is of the most jubilant clubhouse other than postseason that I’ve ever been in,” Darling said. “Budweiser beer cans and Chick-Fil-A wrappers everywhere. That’s all I can remember.”
It was a wild game that included Braves pitcher Rick Camp’s two-out homer in the 18th to tie the score at 11. New York then pushed across five runs in the 19th before Darling, normally a starter, came out of the bullpen and whiffed Camp for the final out.
“Even though it wasn’t a save opportunity, it was saving the day,” Darling said. “It’s definitely one of the thrills of my life walking off the field that night.”
Keith Hernandez hit for the cycle in 10 at-bats and Gary Carter caught all 19 innings for New York. Darling, currently a Mets announcer, remembers the 4 a.m. fireworks display for the 10,000 fans still left in the stands.
“When we heard it go off, we just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I think it was like a War of the Worlds moment for Atlantans. They had to feel as though, what the hell is going on here in the middle of the evening? There’s tons of people who didn’t know there was a baseball game that night.”